I have to say goodbye to my dog.

August 8, 2017

My dog with her head in a door

As I begin writing this, I’m on my flight back from Boise to Beijing. Beijing local time is 2017/07/13 10:24, and it’s 20:24 in Boise. I just got used to Boise time, and now I’m screwing up my internal clock again.

Yesterday, I drove with my father two hours up to McCall in the mountains to ride our mountain bikes(騎山地車). Of all of the activities I miss in America, mountain biking is the one I miss the most.

Ostensibly, the reason I came back to Idaho is to attend my friend Jamison’s wedding. Some may know the real reason, of course, is that I wanted to see my old Chewie-dog—she’s the cutest, most well-behaved, friendliest yellow Lab ever to walk this planet, as far as I’m concerned.

She died on Saturday while the I and my family were at the wedding. We excused ourselves a little early from the reception to go home and check up on her. When we walked in, she was lying on the floor of the kitchen not far from where she was when we left her in the morning. We had made the house as dark as possible to make sure it didn’t get too hot inside, and it was kind of hard to see her in the dark.

As my mother bent over to pet her, I took a look at Chewie from across the room, and I said, “Is she breathing?”. She wasn’t.

I switched on the kitchen light, and there she lay, eyes and mouth dry and open, still as a wax figure. While when we left that morning, her breathing had again become belabored, panting, chest rising and collapsing tiredly—we knew she didn’t have long, but we left anyway.

When my mother realized Chewie was dead, she cried out, “I knew I should have stayed home!“. Dad told her that there was nothing we could have done. “But I didn’t want her to die alone.”

Chewie came into my family when she was five weeks old, small enough to hold in one hand. I was just eleven years old, myself. After 12 years, she’s been a big part of my daily life for more than half of it.

Coming home last Monday was a let-down for me. In the four months I had just spent in China, Chewie’s health had deteriorated from chasing balls and squirrels in the back yard to being too weak to stand or walk. She was so tired that she didn’t even come to greet me at the door. So, my vacation started with having to confront the impending death of my dog.

The next day was Tuesday, the Fourth of July, and she started to get better. She was even able to stand on her own, though not without difficulty. Friends and family came to eat food and shoot the shit, and life was good. It felt like any hot Fourth of July barbeque my family had thrown in previous years.

She wasn’t better, though. She still had trouble standing, and my father had to carry her outside several times so she could do her business. After she collapsed in the grass in the summer nighttime heat, my father and I stood over her, thinking about when we should put her down.

Thursday and Friday Chewie was at her best I’d seen her since I’d come home. She was walking and standing, and her arthritic hind legs even hobbled after a thrown ball or two as the sun rose, birds chirping, squirrels bickering.

Even so, we all knew that Chewie was fighting a losing battle against her health, and my mother had to ask me if we should put her down before or after I went back to Beijing. There was no good answer for me. My father and my brother-in-law went outside to dig a hole for her, and I stayed inside. I didn’t cry. All I could do was sigh, knowing my mother was disappointed and distraught, and my dog was dead.

I didn’t finish writing this obituary until the publication date at the beginning of the article, because I didn’t want to think about it anymore. In fact, I didn’t look at it for several weeks, and when I sat down to finish this article today, I couldn’t help but cry about it still. Certainly, I still feel like I’m missing a big part of my life, but I’m doing the best I can to ensure my happiness. Growing up is being responsible and learning how to adapt to change, and Chewie is one of the last external things that ties me to my childhood.

All I can say is, so it goes. Farewell, Chewie.